Grace Williams Says it Loud
I’ve just read Emma Henderson’s wonderful first novel and joined a Somerset book club who were being filmed discussing the book for the Channel 4 Book Club. The programme goes out on 14 August, and can be seen on 4 OD after that.
I loved the book. Like Grace, the eponymous narrator, who is institutionalised and deemed ineducable, I fell in love with debonaire Daniel, the armless epileptic who types with his toes and transports Grace into a world of love and glamour with his silver tongue, his “gab of the gob”.
The book doesn’t spare us the horrors of a 1950s mental hospital but Grace is more interested in the people who are kind than those who behave monstrously. People like Miss Lily, who rescues Grace the day Grace discovers that she has left a red-br0wn stain on a white seat. Grace thinks she’s dying, but “Miss Lily talked about months and the moon, seeds ripening, bleeding, babies and nature’s cycles… I went back to the ward that night with my head, like my womb, ripening and shedding. Ripening, reddening, readying. I went to bed a Sleeping Beauty.”
Emma Henderson doesn’t preach, but by putting us inside the mind of a person who is absolutely dependent on the kindness of others, we are reminded of the importance of compassion. We see the power of words to transform Graces’ life, “word alchemy” she calls it, as Henderson’s words work their magic on us.
Finishing the book I felt a car that has had its wheels realigned – back in balance with the world, on track with what really matters.
Thank you, Emma Henderson.